Saturday, 25 September 2010

The dash between those two dates.

Someone told me once, the dash on your gravestone between your date of birth and the date of your death, is the life you have been given and that it is important to make that dash count for something meaningful. I am trying to make my own dash count, but it comes at a high cost, and not the paper kind. Years can pass whilst decisions are being made. Waiting for the ‘right time’, almost never really comes. I have never really followed the crowd in most things that I have done: going to University, moving away from home or going travelling. It's not that I don't want to walk the paths that are well trodden; it’s just that I want to do them at my own time, in my own time and choice frame. I want to be the author of my own decisions. When that is taken away from me, the basic of my needs, I become a child, powerless to create what I know as an adult I have gained the right to have. 
Why do people like to snatch choices away from you? I don't know fully, but I am learning more about it as time goes on. Perhaps it gives them a false sense of power, as if to control someone else’s decisions give them an actual strength that they don't actually possess themselves. In overpowering them, and that is what it means, to assert power over another person’s dreams and desires that they have no right to. In doing this, they end up subtracting a vital part, something very special and unique to that person’s life -their dash. The outer strength may appear greater, but they have demonstrated that they lack the inner strength that allows people to shine. In Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech he spoke of this, allowing others to shine their own light, not to extinguish it. There is nothing glorious in putting out the lights of others so that your own can shine with even more light. It's not just about them. It's about all of us. People who cannot see that are blinded with their own light – how very sad.

It is in humility that you will find the greatest strength. People who follow the way of the Buddha have the right sense of being. There is a peace and understanding that surpasses all knowledge and reason. You could try and argue against it, and Im sure that there are those people. These are the people who are probably trying to outshine them. Again, how sad that they cant find the insight to let others speak. They are often to consumed with their own opinions, but do not even listen. Two ears and one mouth, my Father tells me, to do twice the listening than than speaking. How very true.

The people who for me demonstrate their inner strength, is not shown to me through their words. Their actions give a witness to their heart. It is through these quiet actions that almost whisper the divine that makes these people show strength, actual strength that you could rely on in times of need. In battle, who would you call on, someone who talks the talk, or walks the walk? I know we all know the answer to that question, and that actions speak louder than words. No further analysis needed on that front.

To encourage another person gives them strength, to be encouraged yourself give you strength in return. It's very simple. Criticism doesn’t work. As a teacher for 10 years I have been blessed to try this out many times over. I can get an assembly hall of children to be quiet with a look. Not a threatening one. I’ve tried that too, to my absolute failure. No, it was a look that said everything and was followed by my infamous words ‘Now (and then a very brief pause followed by) who can I give house points to? As I scanned the room for every good children first to lavish my house points, I would give them out in abundance, followed by the sometimes good, but never forgetting the naughty ones. I will always recognise them. ‘Maybe in a few minutes’. And do you know what. I caught them being good.  I encouraged them. Now my life may not be the stuff of legends, yet, but I’m sure that I impacted some of them. That, to me, was what being a teacher was all about. It wasn’t in the sharing of knowledge, it was in the honesty, the genuine showing that you cared enough about them. Isn’t that what we all want to know? ‘Do you care enough about me?’

To encourage another person can give them the much needed air beneath their wings. We all have wings, some just haven’t been encouraged enough to use them. My mother’s motto to be is always ‘Go for it, I support you’. Sometimes she finds it hard and it can challenge her own belief system, but she has never let me down, and that is why I am so close to her. She had blown air under my wings on so many occasions that I couldn’t count them if I wanted to.  Like the time when I lost my voice, not for any medical reason, but of a family crisis that occurred. She didn’t make me talk, she didn’t actually want to talk herself, but we went places, we went together. We walked the path of pain together, not seeking to ‘fix’ the other, but in a supportive role. She shared my pain, and I hers, and that was enough to encourage each other. She was the one who brought me through those shadow days. I will always remember sitting on a bench looking out to the south coast and having the most love ever for this woman, who has witnessed her own share of pain that she should have become an empty shell person. Sitting together, sharing that specific moment and place in time is engraved on to my heart. It says: ‘The day I found out how much I love my mum and she loves me’. We have been inseparable ever since. Even though seas may block my way to her at the moment, I have my phone, and she is always there. I mean always. Through her encouragement she has taught me a very important life lesson. And it is something I treasure. For as a parent she has had an impact on my thoughts, my decisions, my life. 

To feel worthwhile is to be encouraged. The story that for illustrates this for me is the story about the sun and the wind. Both were discussing who was the strongest. The wind in his conversation spoke of his power and strength. He had so much, that he believed he could actually blow a man’s coat off him as he walked. As a man walked along a road, the wind began to blow. When that did not work, he blew harder, and when that failed once more, he unleashed a vicious wind that threatened the life of the man. The man continued walking, but held on to his coat even tighter. To the wind’s utter amazement, he was proved unworthy. He wind had failed. Then, the sun, in her infinite wisdom and understanding began to shine gently. It was enough. The man took off his coat. Who had the most strength? Well, you can see for yourself who won the discussion. I’m sure the wind was mighty ticked off at the result, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t happy with the outcome. People like that generally aren’t. So maybe, ultimately people like the wind are doomed to failure. The worst thing for them is that they will continue to blame everyone else for their failings. They accept nothing, they can see nothing, and they are indeed blinded by their own light. 

But there is always hope, we have Pandora to thank for that. And although I haven’t seen it yet, I have been told that in Tolkien’s ‘The Return of the King’ there is a scene between the Elves and Aragon, when a battle has to be fought and the outcome doesn’t look good. There is a very poignant scene when he is asked if there is hope. He shows them in the next few moments his answer. He then says ‘There is always hope’. And that is what continues to give me strength in almost adverse conditions. 
For the people who snatch power, who subtract, who belittle, who humiliate and chastise, what is their purpose? They alone could not even tell you, for they themselves has poisoned their lives for so long, they don't know any different. They are like Kay in the ‘Snow Queen’ who has a shard of glass pierce his heart, and has one in his eyes and therefore cannot see what he is doing and sees everything distorted. But in the story there was hope, hope in the shape of a girl who wouldnt give up. For Gerda showed him, she cared enough to look for him. Lucky him I say, for without her, he would have stayed on the frozen lake, trying to spell 'eternity' for an eternity.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Im so behind its frightening!

I feel like I havent been doing my homework, and how I have about a million pieces to do!!!!

Its not that I havent got time, I just havent got internet access!!! I thought that if I wrote everyday anyway on the laptop I would be able to publish it when the time came. Did that work out? No...

And now I have two weeks of catching up to do. I cant even publish what I have written as I have written the middle part but not the beginning or the end. tssskkk!

Two weeks have passed and have led me from France, to Switzerland, to back to France. I swam in Lake Annecy this afternoon, and although the water was not altogether cold, it made me lose my breath for a few seconds as my body acclimatised to the water. It was very peaceful. I like peace. Not a conflict person by nature. It can be too destructive. Anyway, I relished in the peace and listened to the waves lap around me.

The next week will be spent in France and I hope to have finished my homework by then....I dont even have a dog I could blame!!

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Hello lovely people, i havent forgotten about you all. I have been travelling around Switzerland Lake Geneva since Monday after leaving St Andre on Monday morning and dancing my socks off at the weekend end of british open party. We have no WIFI access, but should be going to Annecy in France tomorrow. I will tell all when I have stopped living the stuff I need to write about...all I can say is that so far...I LOVE switzerland. I wanted to buy a cuckoo clock but they were way too expensive. Tell you more soon xxx

By the way, listen to this and I hope you can read French, because the words are just beautiful!!

Friday, 3 September 2010

My thoughts of what it is to be me

Friday 3rd September: When I decide finally to leave my old life behind and try something that I had only ever dreamt of, I had reservations. Im not the kind of person who makes decisions quickly or even lightly. There have been many times when, in my solitude, I have pondered on where my life was to take me. At my age, many of the people I used to know have now ‘settled down’ and have families of their own. I had always hoped that was for me, but time and time again, I found it difficult to say the word ‘yes’. After a decade of waiting to see if things would change and being in the situation I was in, I knew that I could never say yes to that life. I left it behind. I started a new chapter.

It took me time to find another who I could live so freely with. In the past, I had dreamt of travelling and immersing myself in the history and culture of a place. I  thrive on finding out and learning. I suppose that’s why I love education. It's not just about imparting knowledge for me, its the whole experience. The passion that comes with finding something out and then wanting to dig deeper and deeper, until it fills your every waking thoughts. Is a passion inside of me that I don't understand. It's like I want to know more and more until I swirl around in it and it becomes a part of me.

So, I sit here this afternoon, by the snail contemplating the past 5 weeks. I wonder about so many things. I think about the person I was. Always fulfilling work commitments above and beyond my capabilities. Being good was never good enough, I had to be the best. I have tried time and time again to forget about this perfection and just settle, but its not in me. I want to be the best person I can possibly be, and I want to give that dedication to the people and the interests that I hold dear. Im loyal to that aspect and will be till the end. Giving up is not an option for me until I know that there is nothing left. And then, with sorrow I leave a part of me behind and once more, re-emerge from the ashes, a phoenix.

I wonder what my thoughts will be like after another 5 weeks. And will I get there wounded from the fights or standing with pride over my journey and my choices. Journeys, I believe, is ultimately finding out about yourself. I am glad I have this opportunity, but would have certainly never made it this far on my own. I would have probably stayed where I was, continuing to give all that I had, in the best way I could. So what made me, a very sensible girl, not a risk taker in any sense, move away and do something as crazy as this? The answer for me is love. Love can take you many places you would wish to go, if only you have the courage to say ‘yes’. After a lifetime of saying ‘no’, ‘maybe’, and even ‘perhaps’, the time came when the risk to go became stronger than the risk to stay. Im not a follower though, and never have been. I don't want to be where conformists go. I want to be myself and true to myself. You can tell when I go against this principle, I am a shadow, an echo of who I am. I am quite independent and happy when I can make my own choices. I am my father’s daughter. Although he tells me time and time again that I am not, I know it in my heart. We react the same, act the same and fight for the same things the same. I may not have inherited his mathematician mind, or even his ability to pay off my flat in seven years. I hate when he is right and I cant admit it. It would have been good now to own my own place, but I cant wallow in feelings of regret. What is done is done.
And so, after months of wondering whether to stay or to go, the time came when it was painfully obvious. Live the life you want, or watch the life you’d like. As much as the journey up until now has not been altogether pleasurable, and there have been times when I wondered how much more I could take, I would much rather feel this pain than feel nothing at all. The scars I bear show me how far I have come. It shows me the battles I fight and the ones I have won and the ones I have lost. I don't get things right and sometimes I wish I could have a ‘groundhog day’ so that I could say and do things differently. A far cry from the person who is always so in control and relies on the structures and the securities of a life once lived.

So love is the reason I suppose, and according to Blaise Pascal, ‘Love knows its reasons that reasons knows not of’. I cant explain really why I am here. My soul could orchestrate a symphony to explain it, but my words are poor in comparison. But I am glad that I am. I wonder about so many things and yet wondering seeks me to find no solutions to the things I would like an answer to.

Who I was yesterday is who I was, who I am today is what I would like to be. I want to show through my actions the trueness of my soul. If that means on this journey that I may have to take a backseat at times, then I hope I can show humility in those moments. For the times I need to be in the foreground, I hope to have the courage to say what is important to me, without fear. I want to be me, the very best I can give myself. I want to grow and live and laugh and love.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Sometimes the road you dont know, takes you back to where you started from

Thursday 2nd September: Hehehehehe no school for me today!!!! I am trying not to gloat, but I cant help it. Its only really today that my adventure starts properly. Ive kinda been on a 'summer holiday' till now. Everybody back to normal. Me? Im hanging in there!

I decided today that the snail needs a clean. I cant remember the last time it was done, and the Pilot is a messy bugger. There are papers everywhere, a fishing rod, batteries, and various things out of place. It took me a while to sort out the mess, but all is well now.

Just before midday, I got on my bike and cycled into town. I didnt really need anything, but I needed to post a postcard to my parents, so off I went. The sun on my back was beautiful and warm. I am well topped up with SF, so I know that as long as Im careful, I can be in the sun for a while.

Instead of going home straight away I cycled up to a pottery place, hoping that I could do something creative, but they only sold pieces and only gave lessons to children. I love making things out of pottery. I went for a day course in March with a good friend called Martina. We had such a brilliant day. We made a jug and a plate and Im sure if we had longer, we would have made a lot more.

I decided that I would buy a small vase with a lizard on it, as one tried to kill me yesterday by jumping out of the bushes and running over my feet. It was really scary!! I gathered some pine cones and a few wild grasses and assembled them as a present for my love.

I was on my way back when I saw a road that said 'rue des moulins', I really wanted to see a windmill, but thought maybe I had been duped after cycling a bit without seeing one. What I did see was some trees that looked quite familiar. After a few minutes, I realised that I was back in the snail vicinity. The road I was unsure of at first, actually took me back to where I had started. It gave me hope for the problems in my life. There must be a message in this action. I am hopeful once again!

I watched my Pilot land today in the top 20. It was a proud moment. As the competitions go on he gets better. I wonder where he will come in the end.

We ended our evening having a BBQ and playing cards. Its good to spend some time together.

Butterflies in the sky

Wednesday 1st September: I did it. I whole month away travelling. Ups and downs? Plenty. Sights seen? Plenty. Wine consummed. Ahem ...plenty!

Another sunny day after a great nights sleep, it was just what I needed with enough warmth in my heart to keep me going for a while!

I wondered whether todayI could be able to go to the top of the hill where all the pilots take off. There are a few minibuses here which transport the pilots up to the take off. After a they were all up, a great guy called Mick was able to give me a lift up there.

When I arrived, I found most of the pilots had already unpacked and waiting patiently, ready for their briefing. I weaved my way for a few minutes through paragliders and pilots to find mine.I placed a kiss gently on his forehead and he smiled. So did I. It was then I was glad  I had made the choice to come up here.

We waited for a while and then all the pilots met together for the briefing, where the organisers spoke about wind conditions, explained coordinates and lots of stuff I really didnt understand. But at one point with 150 pilots putting in the turnpoint coordinates into their GPS, it sounded like 150 R2D2's!!

A little more waiting for the 'window'. Then within a few minutes, the Pilots around me grabbed their wings and took off. The colours in the sky altogther were amazing, it was like dancing butterflies in the sky. Truly amazing. I took a few photos, but it couldnt be compared to the naked eye. Yes, truly amazing.

I watched and waited for my Pilot to get his helmet on, sort out his radio before putting his gloves on and taking his position. I really do admire him you know. I know that this is his passion. Its very hard for me to understand or comprehend sometimes, but I know that I love him and respect his passion.

He takes off to join his fellow butterflies and I am left by myself once more on the top of the hill. I follow him as he glides first this way, and then that, before he is up with the others, a myriad of colours, a crescendo of beauty.

I wish I had the words to convey the feeling I experienced at that most, it was almost spiritual. It was as if all the oceans collided and poured over me, it was beautiful!

I stayed by the landing field to take some photos of his landing. He did much better in todays task. He's 49th. Im not sure how they calculate the final distance, but I will find out.

I ended the evening with a bit of 'me' time and catch up on friends. I took a 3 litre box of wine with me (which wasnt quite a good idea) because I ended up stumbling back to the snail. I took forever to find the right key to unlock the door when finally it was opened from inside. We played 'Escoba' and although I won a game, I lost the next. 5:2 to the pilot. huhhhhhhh!!!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The heater saved my cold nose

Tuesday 31st August: I woke up at various times in the night like an icebox. Apparently it was -2 outside according to a lady who was camping in a tent last night.I had already slept with my clothes on, but it did nothing to warm me up. After seeking the heat from my personal hot water bottle, the heater went on. It was wonderful. Just wonderful! I couldn't get out of bed after that. I was truly toasty, after a night in the fridge! The hot shower that followed helped me regain some kind of normality and my throbbing headache from yesterday was starting to go.

Sitting in the warmth of the sun, I started to upload some photos onto the Internet. It me ages as I had about a million. Trying to be selective without boring people can be tough, but after a few hours I had narrowed them down!

I spent the day at the campsite and after a very comforting phone call from my sister and her boyfriend I relaxed in the sun. Knowing the people you love care about you is priceless. Its in time of need that you really do know who you can count on. I hope they know how much they mean to me, and their words mean everything to me.

After a day of uploading and the warmth of the sun, the Pilot landed 84th in goal. There is a very high level of experience at this competition and it shows. To fly better, some pilots take ballast, some with water bottles to make them heavier. Apparently, it means that in strong winds you can fly faster. Some take heavier weights than others and fly faster. Im not sure thats fair really, but there you go. When the Pilot landed he looked exhausted which worried me a bit. Two pilots had to deploy their reserves yesterday, but they are ok, no injuries thank God. I have to try not to think about these things. I suppose in a competition it's easier to be retrieves by the organisers. Its when we are by ourselves that I worry about what I will have to do in that situation. I hope I am strong enough to deal with that if it happens. I will have to be. Occupational hazard I suppose!

After a bit of supper we cycled to the centre of town. There was a musical event there, and I was looking forward to spending some quality time together just the two of us. Its difficult these days because there is so much for him to do. I suppose that's just part of it all.

We arrived as it began, and there wasnt many people there, just the locals. There was a lady singing and two guys behind her with a keyboard and a guitar. It was just lovely. I suddenly felt quite sad, because I know my mum would have loved to be watching this. She loves music. I get on really well with my mum and she's a really good person. I see myself in her and I think she sees herself in me. When we are together, we talk non stop about everything and nothing. She's a good friend and Im lucky to have that kind of relationship with her. When I was home, if I didnt speak to her everyday, we spoke twice a day. Same things sometimes, we used to say 'nothing else to report', but it was in those times that we spoke, we shared the events of our day. In some way, she was where I was, and I was with her. I miss that very much. Here. its just me and none of the people I care about to be myself with. Its hard to keep on trying regardless. Maybe I need a bit of time away, which is crazy, as I spend most of my time alone.

One of the things Im trying to do on this trip is try something different. Especially when it comes to drinking  (not necessarily alcohol!) Whilst in Slovenia, tried some really yummy drinks. One was called 'Lasko dark' Its a dark beer and was quite nice. I dont really drink lager. After 4 years at university drinking pinks of lager and lime, I went off it. Drinking pints was part of the culture there, but I dont think I could drink that way now. I also tried a drink called 'Gingerino', which looked lovely but tasted horrible. I like ginger and thought it would be like ginger beer. It wasnt. It had that sharp taste you get after drinking tonic water. I dont like tonic water at all! So that was that drink. Last night I tried 'Poire Williams' I have always wanted to try it I used to work in a wine shop whilst I was in university and I almost know every drink there is, although have never tasted them. I imagined the sweet taste of pears swirling around my mouth. I do love sweet drinks. I would go for a bottle of Lambrusco (as Maire knows) every time instead of something drier. I am a wine drinker now, I have Helen G to thank for that! We went to Rome together for work in 2007, and I loved every minute of spending time with her. She is one of those persons who can just lift you up, and her laughter is just priceless. She has seen me through many moments and I have probably cried in every room of the school we worked together over the past 7 years! She's a very genuine person and I love her dearly. She drives me mad at times, but Im sure I do the same to her!!

Anyway, back to the drinks. The Poire Wiiliamseverytime, then drowning it with a gulp of lemonade. I did this the 12 or more times it took me to finish the drink. ewwwwww! Not for me, I think I will stick to the liquors for now, much sweeter. I love amaretto, but its a bit dangerous. I remember the last night before leaving work, spending some good times with good friends. Once I decide amaretto is one the evening's cards, I can drink it for ages. I remember the next morning wondering how I was going to get through my last day with a hangover. It seemed such a good idea at the time though! I didnt care because I was with the people I care about, that really can make all the difference. I have been blessed with getting to know them, and them getting to know me. 7 years is a long time to spend in one place. It was also a very special and rare place. When you work together with people, there is always the danger of mixing pleasure with business. I never had to worry though. They saw me for the teacher I was and the person I was outside of that. I never felt like I had to apologise or justify the things I did personally or professionally. They made that possible. I could cry and share my deepest secrets to them, and then turn up for work, and it would be ok. The children we taught would come first, and that was always important for all of us. Yes, a very rare and very special place. I thought that when I left, things would change, but actually, I know that I shall never lose that. The people who touch your lives truly do leave footprints in your heart. I love them all for that.

We came back from our musical evening because it had started to get cold. Cycling back in the wind was
not enjoyable, but when we arrived back, I was given a warm sleeping bag to put on top of me, and I slept well for the first time in ages.